Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 NBA Finals Breakdown

The much anticipated match up between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics tips off tonight in Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Five Tool Sports is here to give you complete team breakdowns, position by position breakdowns and a prediction as to who will be raising the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the series.

First we'll take a look at how both clubs arrived in the Finals

Boston Celtics:
First Round: Defeated the Heat 4-1
Second Round: Defeated the Cavs 4-2
Conference Finals: Defeated the Magic 4-2

Los Angeles Lakers:
First Round: Defeated the Thunder 4-2
Second Round: Swept the Jazz 4-0
Conference Finals: Defeated the Suns 4-2

Styles of Play:
The 2010 Celtics are not the same, consistent team that we witnessed during their last title run in 2008. A combination of injuries, old age and a little bit of locker room tension caused the Celtics to sputter a little down the stretch in the regular season. In their last 35 games, Boston had a record of 19-16, with bad losses to Milwaukee, Memphis, New Orleans, Houston and New York. Veteran teams, however, don't allow the regular season dictate how they approach the postseason, they view the playoffs as a clean slate.

The Celtics deploy an attack that is mainly focused on the defensive end of the floor. Rajon Rondo emerged this year as one of the best perimeter defenders and sneakiest steal men in the league. Ray Allen uses his veteran savvy and knowledge to cut off angles and hold his own in Tom Thibodeau's amazing defensive schemes. Kevin Garnett, when healthy, is an All-World defensive force whose intensity and ability to "show and recover" on the screen and role is unmatched. Kendrick Perkins is a load in the paint and isn't afraid to do the "dirty work" in the low post, whether that be taking a hard foul, or controlling the defensive boards. The only defensive liability Boston has is Paul Pierce. Luckily for the Celtics, Pierce will be checking the offensively challenged Ron Artest, who seems to have already forgotten that he was a pretty good scorer in the league for most of his career. The Celtics have held their opponents to an average of 91.4 points per game on only 43% from the field.

Boston is renowned for their defense, but their offense is nothing to look past. The Celtics rely on Point Guard Rajon Rondo to orchestrate a balanced offensive attack to wear down their opponents, the Celtics have four players who are averaging between 15 and 19 points per game in the playoffs.. If Rondo is getting penetration, he has the capability to finish in traffic, or kick the ball out to Pierce or Allen for an open jumper. If Rondo can't get deep in the paint off the dribble, Doc Rivers will send Kevin Garnett or Perkins to the top of the key to play the pick and roll game. If neither of those options are creating good offensive possessions, the Celtics will iso Paul Pierce on either wing, and he will look to get to his sweet spot and sink the fade-away jumper from the elbow. Like Pierce on the defensive end, Perkins is the weak link for Boston on the offenisve end. Perkins high field goal percentage in the regular season has not carried over to the post-season, as he is shooting 49% from the field, compared to 60% in the regular season. Perkins is also a candidate for "Hack-a-Perk" because of his horrendous free throw shooting at 58%.

The Celtics will win the series if...they stick to what has gotten them to this point. Defense, rebouding and a balanced scoring attack.

Throughout this post-season, the Lakers have shown us that they can outscore anybody, and they can lock down defensively, but they haven't been consistently doing BOTH of those things. Against the Suns, the Lakers, as a team, averaged 113 points points per game something we haven't seen since the Showtime era. In that same series, the purple and gold proved that they could clamp down on defense as well, holding Phoenix to 40 points combined in the second and third quarters of the decisive game six.

The success of the Laker defense is on the defensive glass. If Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are rebounding the ball like they can and should, the Lakers are a tough squad to beat. Another key for the Lakers is containing Paul Pierce, a task that will be given to the ever so defensive minded Ron Artest. In the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers had Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton guarding Boston's most gifted offensive weapon, and Pierce torched both of them to the tune of 22 points per game. Look for Phil Jackson to give Kobe Bryant some big minutes checking Rajon Rondo, similar to what he did with Kobe against Russell Westbrook in the first round against the OKC Thunder. Rondo is a questionable jump shooter at best, and the Lakers will be content to live and die with a Rondo jumper.

The Lakers offense is like a freight train, once it gets rolling, it's very tough to stop. If every part of the engine is on point, it is a flawless thing of beauty, and it's gonna have to be against the suffocating defense of the Boston Celtics. The last time these two teams met in the Finals, "weird Kobe" as Skip Bayless likes to call him, reared his ugly head and doomed the Lakers for that series. Kobe turns into "weird Kobe" when he stops trusting his teammates and proceeds to jack up unneccessary shots outside the flow of the offense. Kobe Bryant needs to have faith that hsi running mates will make shots, or make plays, which will free him up to do more of the intangibles that are needed to win NBA Championships.

I expect to see a lot of Kobe and Pau in the pinch post throughout this series. Pau Gasol's great hands and great passing skills make him a perfect fit in the triangle offense, and the two years he has had to learn the ins and outs of the offense make him much more dangerous than he was in 2008. I also expect to see Kobe in the mid post against Ray Allen, much like he did when he first broke his finger in the regular season. Having Kobe at that spot on the court opens up the high-low game with Gasol and Bynum, and allows Artest and Fisher to spread the court with long range jumpers.

The Lakers will win the series if...they WANT it more. It's all about heart and focus for the Lakers. They have the talent, they need to put it together consistently.

Position by Position Breakdown:

PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher
Rondo is obviously the better Point Guard out of the two, he is one of the best passers and defenders in the league; but that being said, don't sleep on D-Fish, he has contained three of the best at the position throughout this post-season run in Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash. The Battle of the PG goes to Rondo, but don't be surprised if Fisher comes up bigger in clutch situations.

SG: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant
If it was Kobe vs. Jesus Shuttlesworth, I might have given the edge to JS. Sorry Ray, your acting days are over, this one goes to KB24.

SF: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest
If Artest can find a way to expose Pierce's weaknesses on the defensive end, I would give the edge here to Ron-Ron, but I don't think Ron will have much of an impact on offense, so this battle will go to Pierce.

PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol
According to Phil Jackson, this is the key match up. I agree. I think Gasol ends the talk of him being soft and has a good series, while Garnett continues to be mediocre as he has been since his injuries. I give the Edge to Gasol.

C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum
I don't expect a lot from Bynum on either end of the floor because of the persistent pain in his knee. Reports are that the fluid they drained out just yesterday has already returned, and no progress has been made. The edge here goes to Perkins because of his great defense and rebounding.

Battle of the Benches:
Honestly, if you take a second and look at it, it's truly a match up of Glen Davis and Tony Allen vs. Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar. Every analyst and expert is saying that Tony Allen will come in and work some sort of magic against Kobe on defense, not buying it. I think Lamar will make Glen Davis look like a big baby, and Farmar will be open for a lot of three's that he will take and make. I give the edge to the Lakers.

Prediciton: Lakers over Celtics 4-2

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